The eardrum is a thin membrane that separates the ear canal from the middle ear where the bones of hearing are located. It transmits sound waves to the bones of hearing. One way the eardrum can be damaged is due to a perforation, which is the same as a ruptured eardrum or a hole in the eardrum.
How Do You Get A Perforated Eardrum?
The most common cause of a perforation is due to an infection. If someone develops a middle ear infection, the pressure of the infection pushing against the inside of the eardrum may cause it to rupture. With a middle ear infection there is usually considerable pain. If the pressure of the infection is enough to cause the eardrum to rupture, there will be a sudden discharge from the ear with an improvement in the pain. The drainage may be bloody, cloudy or clear. Usually there is some degree of hearing loss associated with a ruptured eardrum that generally improves once the rupture has healed.
Trauma is another way a perforation may occur. For example, a slap to the side of the head, a Q-tip injury while trying to clean the ear, difficulty equalizing pressure on a flight, or diving into a pool, among others.
A ruptured eardrum from the trauma of a slap or Q-tip injury will be painful and can cause either temporary or permanent hearing loss. There may be mild bleeding but persistent drainage generally doesn’t happen. Tinnitus, which is a ringing or buzzing noise in the ear, may follow such an injury.
Diagnosis Of A Perforated Eardrum
A doctor will diagnose a perforated eardrum by looking into the ear canal with an instrument called an otoscope. The doctor examining the ear will usually be able to see the hole unless it is very tiny or obscured by wax or drainage. If there’s hearing loss, a hearing test may be necessary to see if the loss is temporary or permanent.
Treating A Perforated Eardrum
The treatment of a perforation depends on its cause. If it is because of an infection, antibiotics as drops or taken orally may be necessary. If it’s traumatic, often no special treatment is needed except for keeping the ear dry. Usually a ruptured eardrum will heal on its own. Keeping it dry is important because if water enters the ear canal and goes through the perforation, it can get infected. Most acute perforations will heal within a few days to weeks if properly treated.
If the eardrum doesn’t heal, it may be necessary for an ear, nose and throat specialist to surgically repair it. This type of surgery is usually done in an outpatient facility. Even perforations that are years old can be corrected, improving hearing and allowing water to once again enter the ear canal safely.
At Advanced Ear, Nose and Throat Care, our physicians are comprised of ear, nose and throat specialists Dr. Michael Bard, Dr. James Batti, Dr. Dov Bloch, Dr. Michael Drobbin, Dr. Jay Klarsfeld, and Dr. Jeffrey Monroe who treat most conditions of the head and neck. In addition to perforated eardrums, they can treat silent reflux, ear infections, tonsils and adenoids, sleep disturbance, nasal and sinus issues and more. Our offices are located in the Fairfield County, CT, towns of Danbury, New Milford, Norwalk, Ridgefield and Southbury.